Yesterday, Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers, like Rep. Steve Southerland, “overpaid” and said their salaries should be cut in half. But Southerland recently told his constituents who are struggling in these tough economic times that his $174,000 salary was nothing to write home about and that the job doesn’t mean that much to him. Touching rhetoric.
The question remains: does Southerland agree with Perry, or will he stand by his comments that he is overworked and underpaid?
MSNBC: Perry backed legislative pay raise as Texas Democrat
By NBC's Carrie Dann
Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday proposed slashing the salaries of "overpaid" congressional lawmakers by half, citing a Washington culture that has become increasingly "detached" from its constituents.
But in the late 1980s, when he was serving as a Democrat in the Texas House, he was sympathetic to the financial woes of legislators in his own state.
In 1989, Perry co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to adjust lawmakers' salaries to equal one-quarter the amount made by the Texas governor. At the time, members of the state legislature, who are in session just 140 days every two years and are permitted to hold outside employment, made a salary of $7,200 per year. The measure Perry backed would have upped that to almost $18,000, nearly a three-fold increase.
Voters rejected the amendment by a wide margin when it appeared on the ballot on Nov. 7, 1989.
Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said there's "no comparison" between the 1989 measure and Perry's current proposal.
"This was two decades ago and was roundly rejected by Texas voters," Sullivan said. "American voters have no similar say in congressional pay raises."
He added, "Rick Perry has long supported a part-time citizen legislature in Texas, and believes having a part-time citizens legislature in Congress is the right prescription for overhauling Washington, DC."
Perry's shop also points out that his new reforms would lift the prohibition on members of Congress having outside employment, and they say that even half of a current congressional salary would be considered a hefty income to many Americans.
Rank-and-file members of the United States House and Senate currently make $174,000 annually. Perry's government overhaul would half that salary (or even quarter it if lawmakers fail to balance the federal budget in a prescribed amount of time.)
Two decades later, Texas legislators still make $7,200 a year.